Israel may face a shortage of COVID-19 vaccines if local authorities ignore Health Ministry regulations and administer the inoculation to those not considered eligible for the first tranche, coronavirus czar Prof. Nachman Ash warned Wednesday.
Ash told Ynet that there may be a need to slow the pace of vaccinations if additional doses do not arrive in the country in an expedited manner.
With reports that municipalities were planning to administer vaccines to local residents in violation of government rules, Ash said there could be chaos and confusion and a shortage of doses for the more vulnerable members of the population.
Tel Aviv municipality has said it would begin vaccinating teachers this week, ahead of tentative plans for them to be added to the priority list from next week.
"We must act responsibly," Ash said. "I agree that it is a good idea to vaccinate teachers and school staff and we are preparing an inoculation schedule for them.
"But the more vulnerable in the population – the elderly and those with underlying conditions, must come first."
The czar also expressed concern over the continuing rise in new daily cases of COVID-19 and said further restrictions may be needed for the lockdown that began on Sunway and is set to last at least two weeks.
"I fear we may not reach the desired reduction in morbidity," Ash said.
"We will have to see what the numbers are in the coming days as well as how the lockdown is being observed and may decide on further restrictions."
The government has said the lockdown would be extended if the desired infection level of less than 1,000 new cases per day was not reached within the first two weeks of closure.
The lockdown - Israel's third since the start of the pandemic - has shuttered all shops, restaurants and entertainment sites and restricted individual movement to no more than 1km from the home.
Ash said the closure would be extended by a further fortnight and cited the fact that the education system was not shut down as a source of contagion.
"Our data shows that there is a lot of contagion in schools and we must also also reduce the amount of people traveling to work," he said.
"The traffic jams are proof that too many people are not observing the lockdown," he said.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 5,583 new coronavirus cases for the previous day, with a positivity rate of 5.7%.
Of the 40,929 patients battling the disease in Israel, 609 are in serious condition, with 154 connected to ventilators, the ministry said.